Local News

25 horses seized from West Plains ranch

SPOKANE, Wash. -

Animal control officials raided a West Plains ranch on Saturday and seized 25 horses a vet says were malnourished.

SCRAPS officials say the horses weren't getting enough food and water.

However the owner says her horses were getting fed on a daily basis and that SCRAPS didn't need to take them.

Ironically this morning's raid was about rescuing horses that had already been rescued.

Rancher Jan Hickerson says she takes unwanted horses or ones that don't sell at auctions and tries to nurse and feed them back to health.

"I have three hired people, full time. One guy does nothing but water during the day. One guy does nothing but feed and help with errands and haul hay and the third does whatever we need extra assignment," Hickerson said.

Hickerson claims a lot of the animals she takes in are works in progress... That underweight horses don't fatten up overnight.

However, SCRAPS officials worry that whatever Hickerson is doing isn't working.

"There are a number of horses behind the building here on the property that are emaciated," said SCRAPS' Nancy Hill. "On a body condition scoring scale from one to nine... One being poor and nine being obese… The animals that we are removing are scoring a one or a two."

Hickerson insists her horses have plenty of food and that she hauls in day on a daily basis.

"When we came this morning no horses had any food. There is a very small amount of hay on the property but none had been fed upon our arrival," Hill said.

Hickerson thinks SCRAPS officers showed up early on a Saturday morning in the hopes of catching her with empty feed troughs.

"There's a flat bed trailer that holds four to five tons...we feed from here, the hired man feeds from here," Hickerson said. "I own stacks of hay, in fact last night I bought more stacks of hay... That's why I got home so late and here they are, even though I've got 11,000 pounds of hay in the back of my truck and they're saying there wasn't sufficient hay."

Even neighboring horse owners defend Hickerson, saying the horses she brings to her ranch are getting an important second chance at life.

"She's done a pretty good job of feeding them and putting weight on them, getting them in better shape and finding homes for them," said Hickerson's neighbor Barbara Thompson.

But SCRAPS officials say Hickerson isn't doing enough to care for her horses and since they can't run away, the county may file animal cruelty charges against her as well.

"Again, we're removing about 25 horses with a body condition score of one or two which is very poor and have been identified by a veterinarian as at risk. When we arrived, none of those horses had food. None of them," Hill said.

The horses are being fed at the Spokane County Fairgrounds at SCRAPS and the county's expense.

It's money SCRAPS doesn't have in its budget, and that's why you should be reasonably sure certain animal protection officers had good reasons for Saturday morning's raid.